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Anti-semitism, Fascism & Hamas

“Almost 80 years after the end of the Second World War it is shocking to hear nakedly anti-Semitic chants on the streets of London today. There are people who plainly want to ignore the Hamas massacre of October 7. They want to wipe Israel off the map. That is what they were chanting for today. They must not and will not succeed. I thank the police for all their efforts to keep people safe - but we must all do more, because an ancient hatred is rising again in Europe. It must be stamped out.” - Boris Johnson (former UK Prime Minister), November 11.

As millions of people around the world mobilise to protest the Israeli genocide in Gaza they are being met by an orchestrated campaign seeking to portray this mass movement, or substantial elements of it, as being either consciously or unconsciously antisemitic.

The beating heart of this slander campaign lies within the Israeli state which labels any critique of its brutal occupation as being directed against Jewish people as a whole. Netanyahu and his warmongering cabinet allies, are supported in this effort by Western governments who are seeking to ban or curtail expressions of solidarity with Palestine on similar grounds.

The most notable incidences of this so far have been in Germany and France, accompanied by a similar campaign of defamation in Britain where the now-former Home Secretary, Suella Braverman, characterised the demonstrations as “hate mobs” and called on the police to take tougher action.

According to the rightwing press and the police themselves, Britain is currently experiencing a significant spike in antisemitic “hate crime” coinciding with the mass demonstrations in defence of Palestinian freedom.

The rightist leadership of the Jewish clergy have also been in the forefront this slander campaign. Writing in The Times newspaper, Chief Rabbi Sir Ephraim Mirvis cautioned against “hateful extremism”, stating also that the lines between demonstrators and “those who support the brutal terrorism of Hamas” had become “badly blurred”.

The world feels different,” he said, “because at the very moment when it should be clearer than ever what is meant by Hamas’s ‘resistance’, ‘jihad’, ‘uprising’ or ‘intifada’, more and more people are now openly calling for these things in cities across Britain and the world. This is hateful extremism.”

The Tory Immigration Minister, Robert Jenrick, attending a pro-Israel rally told the audience:

“Let me be clear. Valorising the terrorism of Hamas is a serious criminal offence. Those who engage in it, or indeed any other form of antisemitic attack, must be hunted down, arrested and prosecuted. There can be no tolerance of this hatred and antisemitism in our country.”

This thinly veiled witch hunt is not without precedent and has even extended to within the Board of Jewish Deputies itself when, in September 2018, it took a no confidence vote against its own Senior Vice-President, Dr Sheila Gewolb, simply for criticising Israel’s new Nation State Law. The latter rules that national rights in Israel belong only to the Jewish people. Gewolb was censured because she said that Israel was wrong and that “all people should be valued and Israel’s Arab and other minority populations should be a treasured part of society.”

The inference has been crystal clear: demonstrating for Palestinian freedom and against the Israeli state is intrinsically antisemitic.

What is anti-semitism?

Antisemitism can assume different forms and be expressed in different degrees. A useful general definition was provided by a group of prominent Jewish academics and celebrities in a statement published by The Guardian newspaper on June 15, 2018

Antisemitism is discrimination, prejudice or hostility against us because we are Jews. It is a form of racism. It may be manifested in violence, denial of rights, discriminatory acts, prejudice-based behaviour, verbal or written ­statements, negative stereotypes, or scapegoating. Holocaust denial, the blood libel, ­conspiracy theories about supposed Jewish power or the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide—are all expressions of antisemitism… Criticism of Israel is not antisemitic unless motivated by anti-Jewish prejudice.”

In Britain and the West however, the official definition of anti-semitism is represented by adherence to the guidelines issued by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (ICHRA). These guidelines use practical examples which include:

  • Denying Jews the right to self-determination or calling Israel a “racist endeavor.”

  • Comparing Israel to the Nazis.

It was on the basis of these particular articles that the rightist Labour Party leader, Sir Keir Starmer, conducted a witch-hunt of the Labour left forces gathered around former leader Jeremy Corbyn. Having been successful in this effort to make Labour more acceptable to the British ruling class, Starmer has given tacit support to the Israeli slaughter in Gaza and has refused to call for a ceasefire.

This kind of smear campaign and justification for Zionism is almost universal amongst the capitalist governments that form part of NATO. However, a former communist organisation, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) in the USA, has joined ranks with the Zionists in a crude attempt to give this smear campaign a supposedly Marxist veneer.

Central to their argument is the Zionist view that Israel is a place of refuge for Jews in a world where “Jew-hatred” is an omnipresent threat and a precursor to fascism. The corollary of this is that the Hamas attack on Israel is but another in a long, almost unbroken, historical chain of anti-Jewish pogroms, against which the Israeli state must defend itself.

As a result, the SWP now call for a victory for Israel in its war on Gaza. The Israeli invasion, they argue, is necessary to liberate the Palestinians from the boot of Hamas which they portray as an Islamic fundamentalist organisation acting under the guidance, if not direct orders, of the reactionary clerical regime in Iran.

This is at the extreme end of a broad spectrum of opinions which, to one degree or another, attempt to condition our response to the issue of Palestinian freedom. At the other end of the spectrum, there are those genuine supporters of Palestinian freedom who believe that calling out “Jew hatred” is a pre-condition for opposing the Israeli onslaught. This tendency is represented by the online journal World Outlook which also argues more broadly for recognition of the Israeli state and a two-state solution to the underlying problem of Palestinian oppression.

A common thread running through all these positions is that Hamas is an Islamist, Jew-hating, terrorist organisation whose actions on October 7 reflected and/or contributed towards a worldwide rise in anti-semitism.

Any accurate judgement of the latter is made nigh-on impossible by the fact that the pro-Israel capitalist media, the cops, and the right wing leadership of the Jewish clergy, all feature anti-Zionist actions most prominently in their examples of this allegedly universal trend. At the centre of this has been their accusation of “hate speech” by pro-Palestinian demonstrators, who they classify as “criminals” that should be “hunted down, arrested and prosecuted”

Take for example, this 3 November featured report in the Times of Israel:

“A Holocaust library and research center in London was defaced with graffiti reading “Gaza,” the latest in a string of Jewish institutions and sites around the world that have been vandalized with pro-Palestinian slogans.”

A similar report appeared in the previous day’s edition of the UK newspaper The Jewish Chronicle. This was accompanied by an interview with the library’s director stating:

“To lash out against Israel by targeting a Holocaust institution is an action that can only make sense to antisemites and their enablers.”

As the attached photo shows, this referred not to the center itself but to a banner that was hung on the railings in front of the center: hardly an act of vandalism. I must admit that, in my younger days, I might have done something similar. I would have been really angry that an institution whose genesis is opposition to genocide could be either silent or complicit in the daily Israeli massacre of Palestinian civilians. Spray painting a reminder of this may have been foolish, but it certainly is not an example of anti-semitism.

Another incident, this time reported as a crime by London cops, shows a picture of a demonstrator holding a placard with the swastika placed in the middle of the Star of David, which is both an emblem of the Jewish religion and the centerpiece of the Israeli national flag: It is the perfect symbiosis: any attack on the national flag can then be associated with anti-Jew hatred.

In this instance, it could well be that the person carrying it sees a comparison between the indisputable Nazi holocaust and the Israeli genocide in Gaza. Either way, this is someone carrying a placard on a demonstration which they have right to do, whether it be pro- or anti-Israel.

The flip side of this association is that the fight against anti-semitism then becomes almost inseparable from support for Israel. A clear example of this can be found in the USA where the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) is both the lead organisation in chronicling anti-semitism and the most devout defender of the Israeli state. Thus, after reporting a huge spike in alleged anti-semitism “including rhetoric that deligitimises Israel’s right to exist”, the ADL called for a national march for Israel in Washington on the basis that,

“The March for Israel will be an opportunity for all Americans to come together in solidarity with the people of Israel, to demonstrate our commitment to America’s most important ally in the Middle East....”

The pro-imperialist character of the march could scarcely have been clearer. The march itself, featuring a totally bi-partisan celebration of Israel's war effort, was a sickening celebration of this.

Are anti-semitism and Jew hatred the same thing?

Accompanying the exaggerated claims about the rise in anti-semitic “hate crime”, is the use of the term Jew-hatred as a synonym for anti-semitism. This coupling may seem relatively harmless. However, using them interchangeably fails to distinguish between people who have anti-semitic prejudices and those who actively seek to exploit those prejudices for political ends. Take for example a recent poll conducted by the CNN which reportedly,

…..found that, of those in the US asked, 20 percent said Jews had too much control over the media; 30 percent thought that Jews have too much influence over business and finance; and 30 percent also thought Jewish people use the Holocaust to advance their own position.”

Such views are unquestionably anti-semitic, but are they hateful? Does it mean that between 20-30 percent of Americans are Jew-haters? If so, such widespread hatred would almost inevitably presage a wave of physical assaults if not actual pogroms. This in turn might spur an insurgent fascist movement. Using Jew-hatred as a synonym for anti-semitism may not directly lead to such a conclusion, but it certainly adds an emotional heft that gives urgency to the fight against it.

Israel and the far right today

A central weakness of those who seek to rally against the threat of Jew hatred, is a tendency to abstract it from the current reality of the class struggle and the very real emergence of the far right. In so doing, they disarm working people in the fight against racism today and the potential challenges posed by the growth of fascism in the future.

There is little evidence that the far right today is using anti-semitism in order to bolster its ultra-nationalist message. Indeed, the hatred it uses is based overwhelmingly not upon Jew-hatred but rather, an appeal to protect “Judeo-Christian values” against "Islamisation" of the national culture. In virtually every European country where the far right has gained ground, this has led to a convergence with Zionism and the Israeli state as a bulwark against Islam. Their common currency is a racist, Islamophobic demonisation, particularly of Arabs.

“Wearing suits and sashes in the colours of the French flag,” wrote Leila Abhoud in the October 31 Financial Times, “lawmakers from Marine Le Pen’s far-right party showed their support for Israel and the French Jewish community at a rally in Paris, just two days after the Hamas attack that has reignited a brutal war in the Middle East. The Rassemblement National [previously known as the Front Nacional - authour] delegation was well received by the demonstrators, and although Le Pen did not come, she had already jumped to Israel’s defence by saying it “must be permitted to eradicate Hamas”.

Marine Le Pen's pivot towards support for the Zionist cause is probably the most startling example of this convergence between the European far right and the Israeli state. In nearly every instance it has led to them jettisoning their pro-Nazi, anti-semitic past as they rush into a full embrace with their new-found ally.

This general trend was registered in the red carpet treatment which Netanyahu handed out to the heads of the Polish, Hungarian, and Italian rightist governments. In the latter case, this involved welcoming the leader of Italy's far right, Interior Minister , Matteo Salvini. Called a neo-fascist by his left-wing critics, Salvini is renowned for his admiration of Benito Mussolini and his xenophobic, anti-refugee stance.

It would be foolish to assume that this seemingly tectonic shift is fueling a journey towards the centre ground of European capitalist politics. If anything, the reverse is true, making them even more of a threat. The dangers of this mutual embrace have certainly raised concerns amongst the Italian Jewish community.

Its umbrella organisation, the Union of Italian Jewish Communities (UCEI), has issued two formal statements criticizing Salvini and his government. One of these compared Salvini’s plan to hold a special census of the country’s Roma community to the anti-Jewish laws of the 1930s. Prior to that, the UCEI President, Noemi di Segni, warned against a general climate of “growing intolerance, racial hatred and radicalization.

On the issue of Palestine, Salvini nailed his colours to the mast by calling on the Italian government to adopt the ICHRA definition of anti-semitism. He also approved Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as the Israeli capital. Echoing Israeli Islamophobic propaganda, the Italian government’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Guglielmo Picchi, was quoted as saying:

I firmly believe the new anti-Semitism will grow out of left-wing populism and radical Islam, not from these kind of conservative movements”

A similar phenomenon exists in Germany, where the government has banned anti-war demonstrations as part of its pro-Israel stance. The far right there is represented by Alternative für Deutschland (AFD) which is currently polling second place and is predicted to form part of a future government following the next elections. This xenophobic, ultra-rightist outfit prides itself on targeting Muslim immigrants and uses its pro-Israel stance to buttress that.

This was noted by a Times of Israel report following the 2017 German elections.

“Yet the party derided for anti-Semitic, xenophobic views redolent of the Nazis is also staunchly supportive of Israel, one of a number of right-wing populist parties in Europe that have tried to make common cause with Israel’s tough stance toward terror and self-styled position as a forward bulwark against Islamic extremism.”

Not only has the ADF been jettisoning its pro-Nazi, anti-semitic past, but it has already begun recruiting Jews as part of a narrative that projects the Jewish state as the last European outpost of civilisation against Arab powers. Such is the extent of this that in 2018 a group of nineteen Jewish AfD members formed the JAfD, the Jewish division of the party. In the September 2021 German election, Marcel Yaron Goldhammer, an openly gay Jewish man , stood as an AfD election candidate in Berlin.

The latest front runner in this three-legged race, is the Dutch Freedom Party headed by Geert Wilders a virulent Islamophobe who describes the Koran as fascist and has called for it to be banned along with virtually every other aspect of Islamic culture. In a 2007 speech in parliament, Wilders said:

"If we do not stop Islamification now, Eurabia and Netherabia will just be a matter of time. One century ago, there were approximately 50 Muslims in the Netherlands. Today, there are about one million Muslims in this country. Where will it end? We are heading for the end of European and Dutch civilization as we know it."

The party's recent election manifesto for this November's poll included the following clause:

"The Netherlands is not an Islamic country: no Islamic schools, Korans and mosques."

Israel is seen as a cenral ally in a common war, as the journal The Jewish Press explained in its November 23 edition:

"He also said that “Israel is the West’s first line of defense” against the Islamic hordes. He declared that Israel deserved a special status in the Dutch government because it was fighting for “Jerusalem.”

This convergence - between the xenophobic, Islamophobic parties of the far right and the Zionism of the Israeli state - serves no purpose for Jewish people. On the contrary, if accepted as good coin in the supposedly global defence of "civilisation", it is an axis which totally disarms the real fight against racism today and, in so doing, can only strengthen the potential emergence of fascist movements in the future.

Fascism and anti-semitism

The origins of virulent antisemitism lie in the impact of deepening capitalist crises on despairing layers of a crushed middle class. They become open to the anti-capitalist rhetoric of fascist forces that scapegoat Jews for the devastation wrought by the workings of capitalist exploitation. Growing sections of the rulers turn to fascist gangs to try to crush workers and the unions. They will do so in every capitalist country as the class struggle deepens in years to come.” - The Militant, (newspaper of the SWP (USA) ), 30/10/23

At first sight, this general statement seems fairly innocuous. However, having started with an historical explanation of the origins of “virulent antisemitism”, it then leapfrogs ahead into the future to project that the same phenomenon will reoccur “in every capitalist country”. In this manner, anti-semitism is projected as a universal and indispensable feature of all fascist movements. Thus, if we wish to stop fascism in the future, the fight against Jew-hatred today becomes an absolute imperative.

The underlying assumption is that any growth of fascism will invariably replicate that of the past. Why this should be the case can only be explained with the schema that antisemitism and fascism are inevitable bedfellows.

It should come as no surprise that the horror of the Nazi holocaust means that anti-semitism and fascism will forever be closely associated. However, this does not make them twin evils that are synonymous and dependent upon each other.

In actual fact, this identification of anti-semitism with fascism - in its insurgent period - is quite false and certainly bears no relation to the growth of fascism either in Italy or Spain. The argument that Jew-hatred has either been a bulwark of or a precursor to insurgent fascist movements is not historically accurate.

i. Italy: the birthplace of fascism

In the case of Italy – the true birthplace of fascism and its first triumph under the leadership of its founding father, Benito Mussolini – the fascist black shirts of Squadre d’Azione did not organise one single anti-Jewish pogroms or even feature any antisemitic narrative in the first ten years of its existence. This did not make it any less fascist in its terror campaign against the trades unions and the Socialist and Communist parties.

Jews were so well integrated into Italian society that by 1922 when Mussolini took power, they were in every branch of government, including the military, and were represented all across the political spectrum. As such, anti-semitism was not officially adopted by Italian fascism until 1938 as part of the convergence between Italy and Germany’s attempt to revive their imperial fortunes at the expense of France and Britain. Indeed, although Jews comprised just 0.1 percent of the total Italian population around the turn of the century, the proportion of Jews in the fascist movement was three times this number.

From the time of its triumph, the number of Jews in Mussolini’s National Fascist Pary actually grew, from 780 in 1922 to over 6,000 in 1933. In fact, there was an estimated 230 Italian Jews who participated in the fascists '1922 March on Rome. In addition, throughout that period there was an impressive list of Jewish figures at the highest levels of the Fascist state and within Fascism’s most elite circles. This included Guido Jung, a member of the Grand Council of Fascism and Mussolini's Minister of Finance from 1932-35.

Indeed, on several occasions, Mussolini spoke positively about Jews and the Zionist movement. Even as late as 1934, Mussolini was quoted as saying:

“For Zionism to succeed, you need to have a Jewish State with a Jewish flag, and Jewish language. The person who understands that is your fascist, Jabotinsky,”

Jabotinsky was Vladimir Jabotinsky, the founder of Revisionist Zionism, of which Israel’s current Likud party and other right and far-right groups are the offspring.

ii Fascism and the Spanish civil war

A similar picture emerges from the history of fascism in Spain, where anti-semitism barely featured as a driving force behind the victory or subsequent 40 year rule of Franco’s fascist forces.

In his recent book, Architects of Terror: Paranoia, Conspiracy and Anti-Semitism in Franco’s Spain, the noted historian, Paul Preston, chronicles Franco’s use of anti-Semitism in order to rally his fascist forces against the left wing Republican government. He also observes how ludicrous this diatribe was given that the Jewish population in Spain - amounting to some 6,000 in 1936 - was both tiny and barely visible.

Nevertheless, like other far-right and incipient fascist movements of the time, anti-semitism provided a useful diversion for explaining the world’s ills. In Spain, as Preston shows, it was part of a triple threat:

“the bogeyman of the Jewish–masonic–Bolshevik conspiracy provided a convenient label for a huge range of leftists and liberals that were bundled by the rebels into an ‘other’ that needed to be exterminated.”

The resort to a global Jewish-Bolshevik conspiracy theory against supposedly Christian values and institutions, provided one element of the ideological cement that helped bind the fascist forces together. Other elements that were given equal weighting were the idea of a global “Masonic superstate” as well as a Bolshevik leniency towards homosexuality and equal rights for women.

This gibberish was useful to rally his troops: even as his army took Madrid in 1939, he railed against "the Jewish spirit that facilitated the alliance of big capital with Marxism”. However, in the 1936 uprising against the Republican government and in the ensuing civil war itself, there is no real evidence to show that Franco's anti-semitism contributed decisively to the fascist victory. The reasons for that go far deeper and involve an entirely different and more challenging analysis.

iii Germany

In fact, even the triumph of the Nazis in Germany in 1932 cannot be attributed primarily to their reliance on Jew-hatred. There is no doubt that Hitler and the Nazi party were always anti-semitic. Before they came to power this was one element of their hateful theory of the Ayryan master race. Their 25-point programme - published in 1920 and which they used up until 1932 - included one point which excluded Jews as members of the German nation.

Taken as a whole, it was not an anti-semitic manifesto. Rather, the anti-semitism formed one element of a populist and nationalist discourse which demanded that “all non-Germans who entered Germany after 2 August 1914 shall be required to leave the Reich forthwith”.

This is reflected in the fact that, between 1920 and 1932, there is no trace of anti-Jewish pogroms or systematic violence against German Jews. Not a single fascist rally specifically against Jews was recorded during this time. The real terror of the Nazi brown shirts of the Sturm Abeilung, (Storm Troopers) was directed against the workers' movement and especially the Communist Party. The Nazis' anti-semitism during that time was present as one element to be used selectively as part of a varied discourse, whose constant axis was anti-communist nationalism.

As the Wienar Holocaust Library explains, the Nazis cleverly tailored their discourse to different sectors:

For example, when speaking to businessmen, the Nazis downplayed antisemitism and instead emphasized anti-communism and the return of German colonies lost through the Treaty of Versailles. When addressed to soldiers, veterans, or other nationalist interest groups, Nazi propaganda emphasized military buildup and return of other territories lost after Versailles. Nazi speakers assured farmers in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein that a Nazi government would prop up falling agricultural prices. Pensioners all over Germany were told that both the amounts and the buying power of their monthly checks would remain stable.”

Central to Nazi propaganda was an anti-capitalist demagoguery appealing to an impoverished middle class that felt crushed between labour and big capital. Anti-semitism fed into this insofar as it served to obscure the real class character of the Nazis’ efforts to restore the fortunes of the German empire. However, it was not a vital component in their extra-parliamentary thuggery prior to 1932. It did not account for their success in creating the monstrous Third Reich, which subsequently led to the persecution of Jews and then to their physical elimination.

Is Hamas the same as ISIS?

A Facebook friend of mine, Aaron Ruby, is an outspoken opponent of Zionism and the Israeli genocide in Gaza. He is also equally opposed to Hamas on the basis that,

“Hamas is an absolutely reactionary bourgeois outfit, fundamentally indistinguishable from ISIS. Hamas serves, not the Palestinian people, but their enemies.”

This was put more succinctly by the British TV presenter Piers Morgan who simply described them as “a bunch of medieval barbarians”

Aside from the racist overtones of Morgan’s statement, the designation of Hamas as an Islamist terrorist organisation along the lines of ISIS or the Taliban has been at the core of Israel’s 17-year blockade of Gaza. Today it forms the centerpiece of its declared war aim of eliminating Hamas entirely from the Palestinian political spectrum.

The same framework is shared across a broad range of political forces in the USA and Britain, who claim that Hamas is an organisation that seeks to kill as many Jews as possible and/or expel them from the historic territory of Palestine. Some, such as the SWP (USA), go even further and say it is Hamas which is the oppressor of Palestinians and, as such, a victory for Israel will be a welcome relief for them as much as it will be for Jewish people in Israel.

There is a mounting body of evidence that the primary purpose of Hamas' incursion into Israel was to take hostages as a bargaining counter for the release of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails. This same evidence suggests that many of the civilian casualties were either caught in the crossfire with the Israeli army or fell victim to a panic reaction by the Israeli Defence Forces, especially by the Apache helicopter assault squadron's indiscriminate fire upon any moving forces on the ground

The best sources for this evidence can be found in the online journal Grayzone, and especially the article, What Really Happened on Oct 7? See the link below

However, exaggerated they may be, the killing of civilians by Hamas combatants was both morally reprehensible and militarily unjustified. Hamas itself has not condoned them. Given this fact and the evidence available, the narrative of a Hamas-inspired anti-semitic pogrom is at least highly questionable,

Moreover, this judgment of Oct 7, is not conditioned by the facts alone. It also hinges on a pre-determined and false characterisation of Hamas as a Jew-hating, terrorist organisation similar to ISIS.

Firstly, Hamas is a political party with a military wing – the Qassam Brigades – much like Sinn Fein and the IRA during the British occupation of Ireland. And, like Sinn Fein, Hamas also has a civil wing which gained popularity for its provision of food supplies and social services throughout the blockade. However, Hamas is much more than that. It is embedded into the very fabric of Gazan society where its civilian members and supporters are responsible for health care, education, policing, culture, social services and economic enterprise.

Netanyahu knows this and it is one of the factors behind his scorched earth policy.

The indiscriminate killing of civilians - intentionally or otherwise - was also a feature of the IRA’s bombing campaign which claimed the lives of hundreds of civilians, both in the occupied 6 counties as well as on the British mainland. Sinn Fein too was described as a terrorist organisation. It is worth remembering that Westminster banned the media from broadcasting any speeches by its representatives, especially those of Gerry Adams. Most of the victims of the IRA bombing campaign were Protestant civilians but this did not change the fundamental character of the Republican movement as a force for national liberation.

The Mau Mau atrocities in Kenya

These kinds of atrocities are not new in the history of national liberation movements against colonial rule. In Kenya, for example, where British imperialism ruled with terror, the rebel Mau Mau would frequently kill settlers and native Kenyans who collaborated with the British authorities. One incident in particular, which became known as The Lari Massacre, occurred in March 1953 when the Mau Mau burned down the homes of known loyalists. Their huts were set on fire while the families were still inside and those who attempted to escape were butchered with machetes, not even sparing women with babies on their backs.

Faced with a torrent of Western media outrage, a May 1953 edition of The Militant newspaper republished an article from the British journal Socialist Outlook. This included the following comments by its author, the South African Trotskyist, Charles Van Gelderen:

“It is easy to sit here in Britain, in the comparative security of the “Welfare State,” and condemn the activities of Mau Mau; to be horrified at the bloodshed in Kenya is a natural reaction. But if the people are resorting to primitive methods in their efforts to destroy their enemies, it is well to remember that it has been deliberate British policy to keep them primitive............. Every peasant revolt in history has been accompanied by acts which seemed barbaric to the more “cultured" people of the towns...........The town dweller can have no idea what the loss of his land means to his country cousin."

Fifteen years later, the same newspaper, printed a speech by Malcolm X, which took this approach a stage further:

“They’ll go down as the greatest African patriots and freedom fighters that that continent ever knew, and they will be given credit for bringing about the independence of many of the existing independent states on that continent right now. There was a time when their image was negative, but today they’re looked upon with respect and their chief is the president and their next chief is the vice president.”

Malcolm then proceeded to say something which seemed quite shocking:

“In fact, that’s what we need in Mississippi. In Mississippi we need a Mau Mau. In Alabama we need a Mau Mau. In Georgia we need a Mau Mau. Right here in Harlem, in New York City, we need a Mau Mau.”

The entire speech was a riposte against pacifism as a strategy for liberation. In response to the rulers’ language of violence, Malcolm argued:

“Let’s learn his language. If his language is with a shotgun, get a shotgun. Yes, I said if he only understands the language of a rifle, get a rifle. If he only understands the language of a rope, get a rope. But don’t waste time talking the wrong language to a man if you want to really communicate with him. Speak his language — there’s nothing wrong with that.”

Even after Malcolm X broke from the Nation of Islam, he continued to be villified as a purveyor of hate and violence. Whether this is deserved in the case of Hamas, should partly be viewed in that light.

Those who charge Hamas for being an utterly reactionary, Jew hating, Islamist outfit, often do so on a somewhat shaky historical premise. Such a false accounting is provided by the journal World Outlook which states that the October 7 atrocities in Israel form part of a long history of brutality.

Hamas,” they argue, “used these contemptible methods against Palestinians years before the recent massacre of Israeli civilians. After winning an election in Gaza in 2006, Hamas took control of the territory by force and violence. In 2007 it launched a war against Fatah and other Palestinians, taking some prisoner, expelling others, and executing some.”

At best, this is a one-sided view of the civil war between Hamas and Fatah, a war which involved brutality on both sides. More than that, however, it belittles the significance of Hamas’ electoral victory following the 2nd Intifada as well as imperialism’s response to it.

Hamas emerged as a political force across the occupied territories, not because of terrorist thuggery, but fundamentally as a result of its opposition to the Oslo Accords whose central platform was acceptance of the Israeli state. Added to that was the growing ineffectiveness of Fatah in opposing ongoing Israeli repression in both Gaza and the West Bank.

It was this that allowed Hamas to win the largest slice of the popular vote in the 2006 legislative elections for the embryonic Palestinian parliament. This was not just an election, as the World Outlook journal dismisses it, but a general election amongst all the Palestinians in the occupied territories in which the will of a majority of the people was to support Hamas.

Hamas formed a new PA government on 29 March 2006 after Fatah and other factions had refused to join. The Hamas-dominated Palestinian Authority and the parliament were boycotted, and international financial aid was rendered via Abbas, bypassing the Palestinian Government.

A year later following the Fatah–Hamas Mecca Agreement of 8 February 2007, a national unity government comprising Fatah and Hamas ministers was formed in an attempt to create a pluralist Palestinian Authority across the occupied territories.

The real jackboot Islamists in this situation were not Hamas, but the jihadi Salafist groups who viewed Hamas’ electoral participation as heresy. The Islamist view, then as now, was that the democratic process renders the people, rather than God, the source of sovereign will and makes manmade laws, rather than sharia, the source of power. There is not a shred of evidence to show that Hamas shares that Islamist standpoint.

The ensuing civil war that led to Hamas taking complete control over Gaza was not a result of a barbaric ISIS style assault, but rather a direct product of US and European attempts to carry out a coup against Hamas. This was confirmed in an April 2008 article in Vanity Fair magazine, where the journalist David Rose published confidential documents, originating from the US State Department, showing that the United States collaborated with the PNA (Palestine National Authority) and Israel to attempt the violent overthrow of Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

Rose quotes Washington’s former Middle East adviser David Wurmser as saying:

"It looks to me that what happened wasn't so much a coup by Hamas but an attempted coup by Fatah that was pre-empted before it could happen"

Part of that preparation had already begun when Fatah President Abbas created a Praetorian-style guard of over 1,000 armed soldiers comprising forces entirely loyal to Fatah and including with it a rapid deployment force known as Al-Tadakhwal.

Washington then began to provide this elite guard with training in counter-insurgency techniques, followed by similar support from Egypt, Jordan and Turkey. During the same period of the unity government, Britain, Spain and the European Union began to provide communications equipment, vehicles and logistical support.

In addition, the break up of the joint Hamas-Fatah government was followed immediately by a decree from the newly formed government in the West Bank ordering all PASF personnel—along with all civil servants not engaged in vital service delivery—not to show up for work under the Hamas administration. The security and criminal justice sector was vacated, and effectively handed over to exclusive Hamas management.

It also paved the way for the blockade of Gaza denying the elected government essential trade, investment and access to international credit as well as absolute dependency upon Israel for fuel and water. With almost half the population living in refugee facilities, it condemned the vast majority of people to a life of misery, unemployment and deprivation of vital supplies.

None of this is to deny or excuse the capitalist nature of Hamas or its frequent resort to repression against dissenting forces. However, the same or similar charges could be levelled against Fatah in the West Bank – the fundamental difference being that Fatah recognised the state of Israel and worked hand in glove with the Israeli occupation forces to enforce that.

Hamas’ refusal to recognise Israel along with its narrative of resistance - sustained by the underground tunnels and occasional rocket salvos into Israel - undoubtedly furnished it with a large measure of popularity, at least from the end of the second Intifada in 2005.

Prior to that time, Hamas was governed by its 1988 charter which stated that “our struggle against the Jews is very great and very serious" and called for the eventual creation of “an Islamic state in Palestine, in place of Israel and the Palestinian Territories”.

Their new charter adopted in 2017 now states that Islam:

provides an umbrella for the followers of other creeds and religions who can practice their beliefs in security and safety. Hamas also believes that Palestine has always been and will always be a model of coexistence, tolerance and civilizational innovation.”

Furthermore, the 2017 covenant declares:

“Hamas affirms that its conflict is with the Zionist project not with the Jews because of their religion. Hamas does not wage a struggle against the Jews because they are Jewish but wages a struggle against the Zionists who occupy Palestine. Yet, it is the Zionists who constantly identify Judaism and the Jews with their own colonial project and illegal entity.

“Hamas rejects the persecution of any human being or the undermining of his or her rights on nationalist, religious or sectarian grounds. Hamas is of the view that the Jewish problem, anti-Semitism and the persecution of the Jews are phenomena fundamentally linked to European history and not to the history of the Arabs and the Muslims or to their heritage.”

The new 2017 charter, albeit maintaining adherence to Islam, marks Hamas out as a classical revolutionary nationalist movement, in this case based upon the struggle for Palestinian freedom. It is this that differentiates it from both its Iranian backers and other reactionary outfits such as Al Qaeda or ISIS.

The Nakba redemption

The primary evidence for this is provided by the 2018–2019 Gaza border protests, also known as the Great March of Return. Walled off to the South by Egypt and to the North by Israel, Gaza had effectively become a prison camp where the majority of Palestinians survive on handouts as part of the almost 7 million refugees in the Palestinian diaspora.

The issue of refugees following the 1948 Nakba had always been at the heart of the Palestinian liberation struggle, long before the 1967 war and the occupation. Their right of return was enshrined in two UN resolutions in 1948 and 1974 and was listed in that year as “the foremost of Palestinian rights" at the 12th Palestine National Council.

The 2018 Great March of Return, revived this historic demand which Fatah had gradually diluted in the lead-up to the Oslo Accords. It did so, independently of both Fatah and Hamas, in a series of demonstrations held each Friday near the Gaza-Israel border from 30 March 2018 until 27 December 2019, during which a total of 223 Palestinians were killed by Israeli sniper forces.

The first demonstrations were organized by independent activists and involved 30,000 people in a peaceful march. Although they were eventually taken over by Hamas, they were not initiated by them. Before Hamas could control and eventually end these mass actions, they first had to offer support in the name of the historic liberation struggle.

Ahmed Al-Naouq, a youth activist in Gaza at the time explained their impetus as follows:

“In Gaza, we are more creative and flexible in our thinking because we have no other choice. We want to break out of this prison,” he told Al Jazeera. “My father worked for many years inside Israel. We are ready to live alongside Israeli Jews in peace – they need to set aside their fears.”

Jehad Abusalim, a Palestine-Israel programme associate at the American Service Committee, said the protests were another episode in the Palestinian history of popular resistance:

“The Great March of Return has been a grassroots social movement that included the various and diverse components of the Palestinian civil society,” Abusalim told Al Jazeera. “Political factions, NGOs, people from all across the political spectrum participated in the March,” he added.

This was an extraordinary, albeit temporary, phenomenon in the prolonged Israeli siege and occupation, one which offered the world a true vision of the plight of Palestinians: not as passive victims cowed and controlled by Hamas but as active agents of their own destiny. It was a dynamic demonstration that the long struggle for freedom had not died following the second intifada.

Artistic freedom

Another measure of nature of Hamas’ rule in Gaza, is the degree of artistic freedom licensed by the authorities. In the week before the October 7 attack, the Guardian newspaper reported:

“Art, and artists, endure in Gaza, despite the punishing Israeli-Egyptian blockade on the tiny coastal enclave that has been in place since a takeover by the militant group Hamas in 2006.”

An earlier report in the November 2019 journal, The Conversation, underlined this relative freedom of artistic expression:

“Despite the worsening conditions, in July and August 2019 Palestinian artists from Shababeek (Windows Studio) launched a large art project, called “Contemplative Contrasts: Gaza Art”, which included a public exhibition of contemporary art representing social and political life in Gaza. The project allowed many young artists to express their talents, concerns and the issues of their community in a free and creative manner.”

Artists from all traditions have thrived despite the difficulties of finding materials and markets for their work Amongst a broad artistic output was a book of short stories entitled Gaza Writes Back written by young Gazans 2014. Its editor, Refaaat Alareer pointed to one of the reasons it was so significant:

“It is noteworthy that a significant majority of the contributors to this book are female. This shows how important young Palestinian women have become in recent years … this young wave of female short story writers comes to continue the struggle and at the same time to revolutionize it.”

One such young female writer was Hiba Abu Nada, a poet and novelist. Nada was killed along with her son in an air strike in Khan Yunis on 20 October, The 32-year-old writer had published collections of poetry and a novel, Oxygen is Not for the Dead, which won second place at the Sharjah Awards for Arab creativity in 2017.

Her work was published under the "iron rule of Hamas" but her life was taken by "democratic Israel".

Women in Gaza: Life under Hamas

The position of women in Gaza, like those of most Palestinians is conditioned foremostly by the Israeli blockade, not by Islamic fundamentalism. This was testified to by 5 young women in a 2010 BBC interview Two of the interviewees described their experience this way:

Since Hamas took over," said 29-year-old Najla Shawa, "I haven't felt any direct pressure on attitudes against women. I still wear the same clothes, I don't wear the veil, I go to places with men and women.”

“I don't think it's absolutely true," added 24-year old Hana Afana, "that Hamas is imposing a religious code. In some areas of Gaza, I see women go out without a scarf, and even in jeans. They do not get harassed by Hamas - even in some cases they actually ask for help from Hamas officers on the street - if they have a problem with a man harassing them or something.”


The October 7th atrocities against Israeli civilians were abominable by any standards. However, they were not justified or carried out in the name of a war against Jews, Had that been the case then Hamas would have proudly owned them as such. In the history of antisemitic pogroms and in the holocaust itself, hatred and elimination of Jews has invariably been openly declared and used to justify the massacres.

Whilst not condemning them or prosecuting any of those involved, Hamas has repeatedly stated that it was not and is not their intention to kill Jewish civilians.


The struggle against the Israeli state and the fight to win Jewish workers to a unitary, secular and democratic Palestine, will inevitably entail building a revolutionary workers party in opposition to Hamas. In today's conditions, however, an indispensable part of that task will be to forge the maximum unity to fight the Israeli onslaught. That means joining forces with Hamas, Fatah and all others who are prepared to resist the siege and occupation.

The worldwide campaign of solidarity with Palestine inevitably finds itself in the same trenches of resistance to the occupation. Our solidarity should be for the unconditional defeat of the Israeli invasion and occupation, and for a victory for Palestine, regardless of the misleadership of both Hamas and Fatah.

Such a stance does not preclude calling out and combatting antisemitism. However, to do that most effectively, necessitates a clear differentiation between antisemitism on the one hand and anti-Zionism on the other. Failing to do so not only undermines the struggle for a free Palestine, it also weakens the real fight against antisemitic forces whenever and wherever they do appear.


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